Why physicians are on the front lines of climate change care

September 10, 2017

In today’s polarized society, Americans trust few sources for information on climate change. One trusted source is physicians.

In fact, according to a joint study (PDF) conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, primary care physicians are the most trusted source for information on climate change issues related to health.

Moreover, this trust is largely consistent across all consumer segments regardless of current beliefs and attitudes toward climate change. This puts physicians in a unique position in society today to influence such sentiments.

Climate change is already having an impact on human health through extreme heat and weather events. It is also exacerbating pre-existing conditions such as asthma and allergies. This is especially true on days when conditions such as high ozone levels or pollen counts make symptoms worse.

This impact on human health differs by region based on local climate conditions. For example, the ragweed pollen season has lengthened by nearly three weeks in the Upper Midwest, no doubt exacerbating symptoms for allergy sufferers there.

Such impact on human health also has a cost: A recent study (PDF) estimates that health-related costs associated with climate change were $14 billion between 2002 and 2009. Without aggressive mitigation efforts, costs are expected to climb further and could reach $14 billion per year by 2020.

As this public health risk increases from climate change, physicians will find themselves on the front lines of patient care for those that are affected by it. As such, there is a growing role for physicians to play in and out of the exam room.

Two good first steps

Political advocacy

Certainly, physicians can advocate for policy change — as individual practitioners or collectively through professional associations such as the American Medical Association and the Global Climate Health Alliance.

While climate change is a politicized issue, it is “easier for a policy maker to pay attention to climate change when it is positioned as a health issue,” said Cindy Parker, assistant professor of environmental health sciences at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.

Indeed, physician advocacy is having an impact on policy makers, as evidenced by the first Summit on Public Health and Climate Change at the White House last year.

Leading by example

Some suggest that physicians lead by example: by greening their office; switching to renewables, or promoting recycling. This enables physicians to communicate a “lifestyle message” to their patients, according to Parker. This includes posting signs or distributing reading materials and pamphlets in the waiting room about how climate change could affect their health and what they can do about it.

Physician-patient dialogue could improve patient outcomes

Patient care

While some physicians might be reluctant to take a public stance on climate change, most physicians will have to consider its implications when it comes to patient care. Already a growing chorus of physicians is calling for more direct dialogue with patients about the health risks associated with climate change. By doing so, physicians hope to promote better disease management and prevention.

Emerging model for physician-patient dialogue promote patient care

Emerging human behavioral models focused on adaptation to climate change suggest that physician-patient dialogue could have a discernable impact on patient outcomes.

An essential first step is that patients need to be aware that climate change impacts human health. As a recent study points out that while many Americans have “a general sense that global warming can be harmful to health, relatively few understand the types of harm it causes or who is most likely to be affected.”

As such, physicians can play an essential role in ensuring that patients — especially those most at risk — have a cognitive understanding of this connection.

Yet, awareness in of itself is likely not enough for people to take action to minimize personal health risks. In a study (PDF) about human behavior in response to extreme weather, Sander van der Linden, director of the social and environmental decision-making lab at Princeton University, demonstrates that personal experiences can motivate adaptive behavior change.

But to do so, personal experiences not only must be associated with a perception of risk but also negative feelings toward that risk.

“Personal concern can be harnessed into a vehicle for positive change,” said van der Linden, when combined with “adaptive knowledge” regarding what to do about it.

This study has applicability to physicians when communicating with patients about climate change-related health risks. As trusted authority figures, physicians can validate what their patients are already experiencing (allergy seasons are growing longer; summer heat waves are becoming more severe).

By doing so, physicians can help patients connect personal experiences with greater health risks. When coupled with suggested ways to reduce these risks, patients may feel more empowered to take action.

Climate change is already having an adverse effect on human health. There is a growing role for physicians to engage with policy makers and patients to promote better patient outcomes. With the allergy season fast approaching, there is no better time for action.

— Originally published on Greenbiz, 2016

Advertisements

Can Hollywood save us from climate catastrophe?

September 10, 2017

By taking on the link between football and brain injuries, the recently released movie “Concussion” reminds us of the potential for Hollywood to shape attitudes and beliefs about controversial topics through entertainment.

The film has put America’s most popular sport under a microscope and sparked a dialogue about children participating in contact sports and the role of the National Football League in preventing injuries to its players.

Certainly, there is the potential for a similar movie to be made about climate change — one that builds on “An Inconvenient Truth” and speaks to a new generation.

Perhaps it’s a film about a whistleblower who stands up to oil company executives, who have known since the 1970s that burning fossil fuels contributes to global warming. Such a movie would confront head-on the impact that our car culture is having on global warming.

But movie dramas that directly tackle a controversial topic might not actually be the best way to appeal to a broader audience. While lackluster box office receipts for “Concussion” simply might reflect a crowded field, it also may reflect a public reticent to confront a controversy that taints a beloved sport, especially one so core to our identity as Americans.

Apocalypse now

While a similar claim could be made about “An Inconvenient Truth,” this may not be a universal truth about climate change movies in general.  In fact, one could argue that Hollywood has had more success in tackling climate change as an apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic story.

“The Day After Tomorrow,” a movie where ice sheet melting shuts down thermohaline circulation in the oceans, resulting in the rapid onset of a new ice age, was the No. 9 highest-grossing disaster movie of all time. “Waterworld,” where humanity is forced to live on water when melting ice caps raise sea levels high enough to flood all land, was the 11th highest grossing “post-apocalypse” movie (adjusted for 2015 dollars).

Such movies are not made without criticism, given the artistic license taken to tell such doomsday stories.

Some from the scientific community argue that interjecting Hollywood into the climate debate may be a bad thing, as it could further blur the lines between fact and fiction, especially with a public that remains skeptical of science.

But, with a public that holds views on climate change that largely align with political affiliation, Hollywood might offer a rare opportunity to cut across these lines with a message that is both entertaining and eye-opening. Indeed, there is already evidence that movies such as “The Day After Tomorrow” can change consumer attitudes and beliefs about climate change.

According to a study (PDF) conducted by Anthony Leiserowitz at the Yale Program on Climate Change Communications, viewing “The Day After Tomorrow” increased movie watcher “concern” and “worry” over climate change. Not only did movie watchers say they were more likely to purchase a fuel efficient car and share their concerns with politicians, but they were also more willing to talk about global warming with their friends and family, reflecting the increased importance that movie watchers placed on this issue.

Flipping the script

Given the past financial success of such doomsday stories, one might think that moviemakers would be clamoring for new scripts. Today, there is increasing awareness of climate change impact among Americans, especially given the extreme weather events occurring across the U.S. as a result of a usually strong El Niño this year.

This type of script would be especially appealing to Millennials, who are especially passionate about this issue and remain a coveted target audience for studios.

As scientists learn more about the potential impacts of climate change, more stories are emerging that easily could be spun to read like nightmarish sci-fi movies. Here are a few examples:

  • Ancient bacteria brought back to life as glacier ice melts cause pandemic
  • Global food stocks collapse from widespread drought, ocean acidification that dissolves shellfish and the spread of neurotoxins in fish, unraveling social order and leading to war, or worse, nuclear confrontation
  • Rising temperatures shut down photosynthesis by phytoplankton, the source of most breathable oxygen on earth, suffocating all life

In the “Terminator” movies, Arnold Schwarzenegger saved humankind from apocalypse by traveling back in time to change the course of human history before it was too late.

Perhaps when it comes to climate change, Hollywood can inspire humanity to save itself the first time around so it doesn’t have to rely on time travel as a last-ditch effort.

— Originally published on Greenbiz, 2016


Why we should shift to local climate metrics

March 6, 2016

The world recently surpassed an increase in average global temperatures of 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) as compared to pre-industrial times. This was a significant milestone, as it marked that we are halfway to a tipping point at which scientists believe the impact of climate change may become irreversible.

One might think that such an ominous milestone would have been met with broad public concern. After all, a 1 C increase in global temperatures means that climate change no longer can be considered a future phenomenon, as the adverse effects are being felt today. Instead, this milestone barely made it into the daily news cycle.

While other global events often drown out focus on this critical topic, another reason may be that average change in global temperature is a flawed metric for communicating the seriousness of the issue with the broader public.

First, a 1 C change is an abstract concept for most. In the human experience, no one would bat an eye if the ambient temperature changed by so little, so it is not intuitive that such a seemingly small temperature change on a global scale could wreak such havoc on our environment.

Second, an average implies uniform change globally, when, in fact, it has been highly variable across geographies, topographies and seasons. For example, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, over the past four decades, surface temperatures have risen 2.5 times more over land than over the oceans. Such a dramatic increase in land temperatures is lost when using averages, even though it disproportionately will affect the human condition in the near term.

Climate communicators need not to look far afield to understand the flaw in relying on averages. As the marketing adage goes: “There are no average customers. Some people like iced tea and some like hot tea, but very few ask for lukewarm tea.”

Communicators should rethink how rising temperatures are communicated to the broader public. One logical shift would be to more broadly communicate local or regional temperature changes and trends. This could be based on annual regional averages or by season. Doing so also would highlight dramatic changes that disproportionately affect local environments and ecosystems.

For example, while global temperatures have risen 1 C on average, average local temperatures already have risen 1.7 C in Alaska, and a whopping 3.2 C during Alaskan winters since 1949.

Similarly, the Southwest has experienced a dramatic increase in summer temperatures over the last four decades, now averaging 2 C higher. While some might expect such increases in a largely arid area such as the Southwest, average temperatures also have risen dramatically in other regions such as the Northeast where average summer temperatures are up 1.7 C during the same period.

Yet while local metrics may be more effective than global in communicating the seriousness of climate change, research suggests that there may be a limit to how effective any metrics are, as people tend to value their own experiences over statistical evidence.

Such preference for personal empiricism can be detrimental, of course, if it if it leads people to dismiss scientific evidence such as the very existence of anthropogenic climate chance.

But it also can also be a good thing if personal experience and intuition concurs with scientific findings. In fact, studies indicate that humans are able to perceive local temperature changes as well as changes in the onset and duration of seasons. Significantly, “individuals who live in places with rising average temperatures are more likely than others to perceive local warming.”

If the public already senses rising local temperatures then the proper role for metrics is not to use them solely as evidence to convince individuals that change is actually happening, but rather as affirmation of a change already being felt locally. This would necessitate a shift in how we communicate metrics from reporting to validating personal experience.

Such validation would strengthen conviction around what many people already know and embolden them to share their views with others, amplifying word of mouth.

–Originally published on Greenbiz, 2015

 


Innovative Black Carbon Certificates Fuel Traditional Cookstove Replacement

May 22, 2015

Recently, the Gold Standard Foundation, a leading standards organization for climate mitigation projects, launched a first-of-its-kind program to certify the reduction in black carbon emissions when traditional cookstoves are replaced with more efficient ones. While these certificates do not have monetary value in and of themselves, they have the potential to transform funding for cookstove replacement by providing donors with verified outcomes.

Black carbon or soot is generated from the incomplete burning of biomass – wood, animal dung or brush – as well as polluting diesel engines. It is second to carbon dioxide in its contribution to global warming. But, the detrimental impact of soot does not stop there. It also compromises water security for millions by accelerating glacial melt where it settles.

And worse, traditional cookstoves – responsible for up to 25% of black carbon emissions worldwide – are the primary cause of indoor air pollution for 3 billion people, causing the premature deaths of 4.3 million, including 500,000 children.* Not only does soot contribute to global warming, but a global health crisis too.

There has been a concerted effort by organizations such as the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves to replace traditional stoves with cleaner ones. Indeed, these programs have had success: since 2010, more than 20 million cleaner and more efficient cookstoves and fuels have been adopted by people in developing countries, largely in urban areas.

Yet, this effort has been hampered by a myriad of challenges, with cost being one of the most vexing. At $10-100 apiece, modern cookstoves are simply out of reach for many of the world’s poorest households.* Moreover, familiar benefits from such a purchase are often hard to put a value on, things such as time saved gathering wood or reduced risk of respiratory disease.

Cookstove replacement programs already attract financial support from carbon credits generated by reducing associated carbon dioxide emissions. But, current protocols neither quantify black carbon emissions nor measure its reduction. It is this gap that this certificate program seeks to fill.

And, by doing so, black carbon certificates have the potential to generate even greater benefits than carbon credits alone. Here’s how. These certificates:

• Attract funding from a wider range of sources given that they tackle issues beyond climate change including water security and human health. Donors could include governmental and non-governmental organizations, as well as multi-national corporations such as Unilever which already invests heavily in sustainable living initiatives around the world.

• Can generate greater premiums for associated carbon credits than otherwise would be expected because of the added benefit of certifying black carbon reduction too. Additional funding will accelerate stove replacement by subsidizing the purchase price and ongoing maintenance fees or distribution costs, especially in harder to reach rural areas.

• Provide a powerful signal to the market that demand for more efficient cookstoves is about to scale. To date, only 4% of traditional stoves have been replaced.* This leaves a massive market opportunity yet to be tapped and ripe for further innovation.

Reducing black carbon emitted from traditional cookstoves benefits human health and the environment. Though not a monetary instrument in and of itself, Certified Outcome Statements have the potential to accelerate cookstove replacement by attracting greater funding from donors that seek results-based outcomes. Replacement programs – certified to benefit both people and the planet – should ignite greater interest in this effort by all of us.

* Source: The Gold Standard Foundation


Transforming the Climate Conversation Through Social Video

May 22, 2015

Originally published on Greenbiz, June 5, 2014

Over the last two decades, non-profit organizations have tried to influence U.S. consumer belief in anthropogenic, or human-driven, climate change. During that time, many high profile campaigns have been launched, from the Evangelical Environmental Network’s What Would Jesus Do? campaign in 2000 to Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection’s bipartisan We Can Solve It campaign in 2008 to 350.org’s Do the Math campaign in 2012.

While each campaign recorded its own successes, consumer data suggests that their collective impact on consumer beliefs has been nominal. Today, only a slim majority of Americans (57 percent) believe that climate change is caused by human activity, a percentage largely unchanged since Gallup’s Environment poll started in 2001.

Of course, there are many reasons why such campaigns might not have had broader impact. The campaigns may not have reached enough skeptics of anthropogenic climate change, or if they did, may have delivered messages that did not resonate or were discounted relative to counterarguments made by media organizations such as Fox News.

Former hedge fund executive Tom Steyer is already planning the next climate campaign through his super PAC NextGen Climate Action. NextGen intends to influence voting behavior in the midterm election, with the goal of electing public officials more likely to pass climate change legislation.

Taking a page from Obama’s 2012 reelection playbook, NextGen plans to connect one-on-one with voters — including skeptics of anthropogenic climate change — through tailored messages believed to have the best chance at swaying votes. While this latest effort is laudable, NextGen faces challenges similar to previous climate campaigns, namely, motivating skeptics to listen to its message and trust in the messenger that delivers it.

Advertisers face similar challenges in influencing consumers today through traditional advertisements. A recent Nielsen study indicates that, for Americans, “recommendations from people that [they] know” is, by far, the most trusted form of advertising (84 percent, up 6 percentage points from 2007.)

What this suggests is that the best way to influence consumer beliefs on climate change is to have trusted family and friends deliver the message, not advertisers. But to do so, an advertiser still faces high hurdles in motivating some people to watch messages delivered directly from the advertiser and then share them, whether by email, text, social network or word of mouth, across social circles. Such shared messages are impactful, not just because they come from a trusted source, but also because they come with an endorsement — implicitly or explicitly — from that person.

So, how do advertisers motivate consumers to share ads?

Leading global advertisers such as P&G, Samsung, Chrysler and Ford have delivered repeated success by engaging hundreds of millions of consumers through choice — or user-initiated — video. This is how it works: video ads are placed amongst native content on publisher sites across the web. When consumers find them relevant to their experience, they click and view them. To an advertiser, choice video is still an ad. But, to a consumer, it is content — and content that consumers choose to watch, and share if compelled to do so.

Non-profits and green brands such as Seventh Generation and Method also have leveraged choice video to engage consumers. Advertisers leverage choice video not just because it generates media efficiencies as shared (or earned) views are free, but because it also drives real impact, as demonstrated in multiple brand studies conducted jointly by Visible Measures and Insights Express, a leading research company.

Let’s take a closer look at some successful non-profit campaigns. One example is the Kony 2012 campaign launched by the non-profit organization Invisible Children. This campaign featured a 30-minute, documentary-style video that engaged viewers with a gripping story of a boy forced into being a child soldier fighting for Joseph Kony, a brutal rebel leader in Africa. In all, more than 229 million viewers have watched this video, making it one of the most viewed video campaigns of all time.
The campaign’s success not only was measured by its viewership, but also by how many viewers felt compelled to share it.
So the question becomes how does an advertiser motivate viewers to share a video, even one with a storyline as dark as this? The answer is straightforward: viewers share when they feel rewarded for doing so.

In the case of Kony 2012, the campaign was positioned to viewers as a way to build awareness for Joseph Kony’s atrocities in the hope that by making him famous, governments would come under pressure to take action to stop him. Viewers readily shared and engaged with the video across their social networks and, in return, gained a sense of personal satisfaction in knowing that their actions were helping to bring Kony to justice.

Most social videos, fortunately, tell a more positive story than Kony 2012’s. One recent example is a video campaign launched by Thai mobile operator TrueMove H, Giving Is the Best Communications. This gripping three-minute video tells the story of a storekeeper’s generosity toward a small boy that is repaid 30 years later. It has garnered over 16 million views to date from around the world — many of them generated through social sharing.

Viewers watch this video because it tells a universally appealing story that transcends cultural and language barriers to emotionally connect with viewers. Arguably, viewers have been sharing it because they get satisfaction from inspiring others — or perhaps even bragging rights of sort from being the first in their social group to share it. Regardless, the sharing of this video comes with an implicit or explicit endorsement from a trusted source to watch it.

Now, a similar opportunity exists to leverage choice video to influence consumer beliefs about climate change. Success of such a video campaign hinges on at least three things.

First, a campaign must craft a compelling story that all viewers — climate change believers and skeptics alike — want to watch. There are many ways to do this creatively, of course, but those that tell a universal story may have the broadest appeal.

Second, a campaign must distribute content to influencers and audiences across the web in order to spark social sharing. While earned media is free, most campaigns spend significant dollars building social momentum.

And third, viewers must feel rewarded for sharing. People enjoy compelling stories. But it does not mean that they automatically share them. People need an incentive for sharing in larger numbers and more often. Certainly, it can be based on a sense of personal satisfaction from taking social action as in the Kony campaign, or from inspiring others as in “Giving.” There is no reason why a climate campaign could not be awe-inspiring or feature a celebrity in a way that would enhance the reputation of those doing the sharing as trendsetters.

Choice video is a powerful medium by which to influence consumer beliefs on climate change. It not only has the potential to engage climate skeptics, but also to influence their beliefs, especially when the message is shared from a trusted source. This is one medium that climate campaigns — including Steyer’s super PAC — should give a chance.


Distributed Generation Can Fuel Local Economic Growth

December 12, 2013

“Buy Local” marketing campaigns have long been a popular – and effective – way to spur economic growth within local communities. Such programs redirect consumer spending to independent businesses closer to home. Not only does this added spending increase local sales, but it fuels greater economic activity in general as the money is more likely to be re-spent locally on other goods and services. Traditionally, such campaigns have focused on boosting sales for local farmers and artisans. They have also been used to reinvigorate downtown shopping districts, helping local merchants retain customers against encroachment by big box retailers.

Distributed Energy Generation Creates Disposable Income

Perhaps not surprisingly, there has historically been little economic incentive to promote locally-generated energy as part of these campaigns since traditionally there has not been a more local alternative to energy provided by large national companies. Today, however, distributed generation energy (DEG) has the potential to fuel greater local economic activity by putting more disposable income (or profits) in the hands of local homeowners, businesses and investors that can be spent locally.

DEG systems – fueled by solar, wind, natural gas and other energy sources – are readily available for homeowners and business to install directly. Consumers can also partner with a full service provider such as SolarCity to finance, install and maintain such systems. By deploying DEG, homeowners and businesses typically reduce their overall energy costs as well as the variability in energy pricing. Renewable DEG has the added benefit of lowering ongoing cash outlays for fossil fuels. Moreover, local DEG owners can generate incremental income by selling excess power back to the utility – or perhaps longer term to neighbors through contracts negotiated directly or brokered through the utility.

DEG Provides an Attractive Investment Opportunity

DEG systems can also provide an attractive investment opportunity for investors looking to generate moderate returns at relatively low risk. Local economies can benefit by providing a way for locals to generate an attractive return on their money – especially in this low interest rate environment – while accelerating the deployment of DEG within their communities.

Investment vehicles have emerged to facilitate this. For example, Mosaic allows qualified investors to invest smaller amounts (minimum $25) in rooftop solar energy projects. This past week, SolarCity announced that it has completed the industry’s first securitization of large scale distributed solar energy assets valued at nearly $55 million.

Market Conditions Are Increasingly Favorable

Market conditions are increasingly favorable to scaling DEG. Just this past week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced new standards that make it much easier for small scale (<20 megawatts), renewable DEG including rooftop solar and wind to connect to the grid. Furthermore, installation costs are coming down rapidly as conversion efficiency increases and manufacturing costs fall which is accelerating adoption. Small solar PV power capacity, for example, is expected to double within the next two years.

Rapid growth in DEG is, of course, disrupting the traditional utility model. Yet, many utilities and regulators are moving aggressively to adapt to the changing competitive environment. Duke Power, for example, is increasingly focused on providing grid services like battery storage needed to ensure grid stability as more wind and solar power capacity comes online. Meanwhile utilities American Electric Power, MidAmerican Energy and others are backing new transmission capacity to bring wind power from the Texas Panhandle to major cities. Finally, regulators like the Arizona Corporate Commission are making accommodation for utilities to ensure that they get cost recovery for transmission investment and maintenance.

Distributed generation is growing rapidly and can provide a big boost to a local economy. Community leaders should take advantage of this by promoting its expansion – and motivate local consumers to buy home-grown energy. A “Buy Local” marketing campaign may be the perfect way to encourage just that.


What Green Businesses Can Learn from Obama’s Campaign

December 14, 2012

Although President Barack Obama ran a successful campaign and won a decisive electoral-college victory, the margin in key battleground states was slight. Indeed, a shift of 407,000 votes across four of them — Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Virginia — would have given Mitt Romney the 69 electoral votes he needed for victory.

Big data has been touted as key to Obama’s victory — and securing winning margins in swing states — by enabling the campaign to focus scarce resources on voters who could be persuaded to vote for Obama and, once persuaded, were likely to actually vote.

Critical to this effort was the Obama campaign’s recognition that voters may be demographically similar while at the same time strikingly different when it came to the issues that they cared about. As Dan Wagner, the campaign‘s chief analytics officer, told The Los Angeles Times, “White suburban women? They’re not all the same. The Latino community is very diverse with very different interests. What the data permits you to do is figure out that diversity.”

For the Obama campaign, a key to victory was to precisely understand which issue would be most persuasive to a voter’s choice and then microtarget like-minded voters with messaging that relayed the President’s stance on the issue and his action plan to address the issue going forward.

Underpinning this effort by the campaign was market research to determine the precise issue that most effectively influenced voter decisions — and which voters cared about which issues. The campaign also targeted known supporters, asking them to reach out to Facebook friends in swing states in hopes of influencing their voting decisions.

Such microtargeting is not limited to campaigns. Companies can also use this approach to identify and shape green brand preferences, and ultimately, purchase decisions. Here is how:

Focus on consumer persuadability. Politicians are known for boasting to voters about what they have done while in office and expecting voter support in return. This is similar to how many brands tout their green accomplishments today: more recyclable, safer chemicals, reduced material content. But, as in politics, such accomplishments may not be relevant to consumers, green or otherwise. Nor are they necessarily factors that influence brand preference and choice.

In contrast, the Obama campaign had a laserlike focus on the issues most associated with influencing voter decisions. Brands can learn from such an approach. By determining not only what consumers care about but also prioritizing messaging to focus on those needs most associated with consumer preference and choice, brands can have greater impact for a given investment. In each case, market research is required to reveal what cares or needs have the most influence on preference and choice and for which audiences.

Method’s recent Clean Happy video campaign illustrates such an approach. The campaign targets household decision-makers and focuses on a broad range of consumer cares and needs and how Method’s products deliver on each.

For example, one video titled “Clean Like a Mom” promotes Method household cleaning products that contain safer chemicals than traditional cleaners. But, instead of focusing exclusively on product attributes, the video highlights how Method products address specific consumer cares, namely, kids’ safety and the desire by moms to be perceived by their peers as doing the right thing. Presumably, Method did market testing and found out that with moms, these issues motivated greater brand preference and choice than alternatives.

Interestingly, green marketers can effectively influence consumer behavior even if consumers do not consider themselves to be green. One dramatic example comes from a Yale University/George Mason survey that segmented Americans based on their attitudes toward climate change.

The survey revealed that two consumer segments — the one most alarmed by and the one most dismissive of climate change — were the most future-oriented in terms of their outlook. Such attitudinal similarities provide a potential opening for marketers to try a more future-focused message when selling greener products to these segments despite their polar opposite views on climate change.

Be true to your brand. Some politicians try to reinvent themselves in order to tell voters what they want to hear. Arguably, this is similar to a brand that wants to engage consumers on green issues but is not currently perceived in the market as being green.

Brands do not necessarily have to be known for being green in order to be relevant to consumers. Instead, brands should tell their story in a way that is true to their existing brand positioning.

Unilever’s Axe is a great example. Known as an irreverent brand that uses the sex appeal of its products to drive sales, Axe launched its “ Showerpooling” campaign to engage its customer base on the issue of water conservation. The platform uses showerpooling — sharing showers — not only as a way to grab attention, but to make it relevant with the audience. The campaign jokes: “It’s not just environmentally friendly … it’s all kind of friendly.”

Target microsegments. The Obama campaign identified microsegments through research and projected these against a database of registered voters in a nationwide effort to influence voter choice. Of course, marketers could develop their own database by encouraging consumers to sign up for ongoing communications from a company.

But, even without a database, marketers can certainly target microsegments online. This can be done by targeting green consumers on contextually relevant sites, retargeting those visitors elsewhere online or by partnering with a demand side platform to identify and target audiences with like-minded profiles regardless of where they go online.

Turn loyalists into influencers. The Obama campaign successfully tapped its supporters to motivate friends in swing states to vote. Similarly, advertising campaigns should activate loyal customers to serve as influencers and advocates for the brand. Method deployed a similar approach in its recent campaign by distributing fun videos through social sites such as YouTube and Facebook and providing incentives for viewers to share them.

The Obama campaign demonstrated the power of microtargeting to influence voters, and arguably, affected the outcome of the election through this technique. Obama’s success was bolstered by focusing on specific issues most influential with specific voters, rather than a more general message. Such a campaign provides many lessons for green marketers — as well as the opportunity to take a similar approach to drive adoption of green products.


%d bloggers like this: